Master Explorer is a regular series profiling adventurous locals who are inspired by Manitoba and create something unique. Their creations then fuel others to explore and embrace the province. This month’s Master Explorer is Dr. Frank Albo, the brain behind the mind-blowing architectural tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building called the Hermetic Code Tour.
As a curious masters student, Frank Albo never imagined his research decoding the design of our provincial Legislature would result in a popular walking tour that has educated and entertained nearly 25,000 visitors (including 1 particularly fascinated member of The Royal Family), and has earned recognition by Destination Canada as a Canadian Signature Experience.
Nine seasons (and a PhD) later, Dr. Albo still guides guests around the Legislature, pointing out hidden hieroglyphic inscriptions, numerological codes, Freemasonic symbols, and references to alchemy and ancient religion, all which – he theorizes – prove the building’s real purpose (hint: it’s not to house government). A charismatic storyteller who delivers the arcane information with explosive passion, impeccable timing, and a penchant for suspense, Albo is worth every penny of the price of admission. You’ll never look at architecture the same way.
Heartland Travel offers The Hermetic Code Tour every Wednesday evening until the end of October. If you get hooked on Dr. Albo’s architectural research (and we know you will), check out his newest project on Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
Oh, Master Explorer, share more of your wisdom with us.
What’s your go-to Manitoba staycation?
That’s very easy: Turtle Lodge at Sagkeeng First Nation. I think there is no more warmly welcoming site in the province than Turtle Lodge. It’s an ecumenical lodge where Elder Dave Courchene opens his teachings to the world in the most unique way. It was most recently featured on CNN.
Where do you really, really want to explore in Manitoba?
Now…I guess I should tell you! This is my next book: we have a site in Manitoba, which is probably the least documented, most important historical site in the province. This is Canada’s Stonehenge. This site is probably the largest, oldest petroform site in North America. The stones that have been placed there – circa 3, 4, perhaps 5,000 years ago – were laid out according to very particular calculations. And my research has just begun.
As an historian, what aspect fascinates you the most about our past?
The city of Winnipeg was once the Chicago of the North, and we have an architectural record that show us as a testament to our remarkable glory. To me, I always see buildings as a reminder of our cultural DNA and the imprint that has been left by our forefathers and foremothers in the province. And I’m not only talking about the centre of the Exchange District, but even going back 5,000 years. Manitoba’s history is unlike any other place I know.
Tell us about that Manitoba travel experience where your heart skipped a beat.
To a visitor, describe the personality of Manitoba.
I would say it’s part James Bond – and if you know your history on the subject, you know why I’m saying that. It’s a little bit magical. And a wee bit of showbiz.